Swindon's rough sleepers can benefit from a day centre and night shelter over the winter months thanks to the council's latest project to tackle homelessness.
Following on from the winter housing initiative at Carfax Street's former Health Centre, Swindon Borough Council have teamed up once more with Swindon Night Shelter to open doors to The Haven, Queens Drive, to 12 homeless people.
Alongside the night shelter, The Haven will also offer a day centre for other rough sleepers across Swindon who can use the centre's bathroom facilities, lounge area, washing machine, and receive hot meals.
From Wednesday 12 December six men and six women will be working alongside the council and Swindon Night Shelter for 15 weeks. The primary aim is to assist the residents into permenant housing after the scheme ends.
Mike Ash, Head of Housing at Swindon Borough Council, said: "We have much more resources and a much bigger volunteer base, and that’s built on the success from last year. It’s a very different project to what we’ve seen before traditionally in Swindon.
“The biggest difference is running the night shelter in sync with the day centre, so that we are able to work over 24 hours with this group which will be much better for the guests. To have the whole day is just wonderful.
"Each year we look at need, what our rough sleeping cohort is and what we need to provide. We see the winter as an opportunity to engage, – that’s the purpose behind stepping up in the winter – because it’s literally when we can work with people because they know that they’re going to rely on us a lot more. We just see that as a fantastic opportunity."
The Haven, formerly a school, is being leased by Swindon Night Shelter who will be running the day centre. The charity, and council, has linked up with local services to offer further support for the centre's guests and visitors including Turning Point who will provide drug and alcohol support. Nationwide and Intel have also offered to provide assistance with opening bank accounts and teaching basic computer skills. The guests will also have the opportunity to volunteer for social enterprise schemes.
Becky Davison, project leader for Swindon Night Shelter, said: "This is a place where they can come together so that when they’re ready to make that choice we can bring that support and services around them – the point here is that everyone can come to them, and when they’re ready they can ask for that help.
"The idea is that when people come in here, if they don’t want to sit around and do nothing, we can give them that volunteering opportunity, which hopefully leads to work – it builds their self-esteem and confidence. It doesn’t work for everybody at the same time - we need to come alongside people as individuals and work at their pace. When they’re ready, we’re ready to move with them.
“The goal is to give guests some normality. It will take time, because for a lot of guests they’re coming out of very chaotic situations.”
Last year the winter housing scheme saw seven out of the 12 guests successfully housed, and this year has seen an increase in volunteers from 60 to 85. Despite positive results, the process can still be difficult for rough sleepers to engage with.
Becky added: “The first thing is just coming indoors – just having that responsibility, just having that place where you have to be. Also, communal living - that’s not for everybody. It’s quite difficult to live in a room with six other people, especially when you’ve had such a great amount of independence and a chaotic lifestyle - that’s quite intense for the guests.
"Our job as volunteers, and staff on the project, is really to try and ease them through that process.”
To launch the scheme, The Haven has received £40,000 in revenue support - primarily in grants from the government. After March Swindon Night Shelter will continue to be lease holders of the building for up to three years where they will continue day centre to offer further support for homeless people in Swindon.
For further information about The Haven, volunteering and donating, visit www.swindonnightshelter.uk